Ephemeral Stones: our Beijing Design Week Project

Posted by Lorenzo Barbieri on

We thought an ancient forest to be immortal, then we saw the fires. Our irrational minds relied on stones, then: they must endure.

In the village at the edge of the Eastern Leaves forest, there are some stones that were made to last forever, but they have been demolished and neglected. They lay abandoned close to a newly built brick house. We collected them and worked on them, understanding their quality of impermanence, dispelling our ephemera-phobia.

The material used in this project is the typical roof-tile, the only durable construction piece used in the old and now demolished south-west Yunnan houses where we work and often live.

We have taken these “ephemeral stones” and made them last, at least in our imagination. The truth, though, is these buildings have still been demolished and replaced, which forces us to reconcile ourselves to this world’s ephemeral qualities.

This idea of ephemeral stones originates in our reflections on the culture lost by the tribes and cultural minorities who inhabit the mountain where we grow our trees. They continuously exchange their original building styles for modern brick houses, creating a completely new visual landscape out of their mountain villages.

This is a different situation from that which is happening in other historical Chinese cities, such as the Beijing hutongs, where the architectural transformation is often planned by authorities, who are seen as solely responsible for this loss of authenticity.

On these mountains, so far away from the central authority, the landscape’s transformation is a result of the original inhabitants’ increasing wealth, which encourages them to build, using new elements that had previously never appeared in their culture. Those who arrive expecting to find a village ensconced in the wild mountains on the edge of the continent with a preserved purity lost to the cities are in for a shock. The rebuilt villages boasting this mixed architecture disrupts this anticipated purity.

We have collected these tiles and brought them to Jingdezhen, the ancient district renown for porcelain production. Here, using the same raw materials and in the same physical location, artisans have been reproducing and improving on the same outstanding production techniques for 1,700 years.

Adding another cultural layer to the tiles, we employed the hands of three artists, Li Wenqiao, Qiyi, and Shousan, who each contributed their personal yet complimentary research and style to our project.

For further inquiries about the pieces created for the exhibition please write us

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